Interview: Runaway June Talk Debut Album, Writing-Room Beginnings and the Importance of Support
Runaway June released their debut single, "Lipstick," in 2016, and in the months since, the song has become a Top 25 hit for the country trio, made up of Naomi Cooke, Jennifer Wayne and Hannah Mulholland. These days, the three women have their sights set on more new music -- specifically, their debut album, which they say is almost finished.
"We’re working on it now. We’re about three-quarters of the way [done], but we’ve been on the road, so it’s hard to finish up the final stuff," Mulholland tells The Boot. "But we’re hoping [to release it in] springtime. We’re anxious to finish it, but we love being on the road, too."
"Lipstick" is a pop-infused country track, but Runaway June say that their record won't necessarily lean that direction.
"I would say it has this Western feel, which is kind of crazy," says Wayne, who is a granddaughter of the iconic actor John Wayne. "It’s very Western, romantic, organic, good-old country music, with a modern twist."
Adds Cooke, "We’re modern women, and so it definitely has a modern outlook, but I love those words Jen used. We somehow ended up having this cowboy Western thing running through it, and I think that’s a little John Wayne blessing from above. It’s very romantic, very American, very positive and all-encompassing, with both genders. We’re really excited about this album."
There was undeniably something cool with us ... I don’t think we had any reservations about it.
Runaway June co-wrote "Lipstick" with Rebecca Lynn Howard, and although they enjoy songwriting, they're not feeling pressure to write on all of their album's tracks.
"We’ve written as much as we can," Cooke says, "but obviously, we live in Nashville -- you hear hundreds of amazing songs all the time, so we just want the best song to win."
If Cooke, Wayne and Mulholland hadn't been writing at least some of their own material, however, Runaway June might not exist. The three originally met by scheduling a writing appointment.
"Benny Brown, who is the head of [Wheelhouse Records], our label, he heard Naomi sing at a showcase, and he was kind of working with me a little bit with some songs. He was like, ‘I think you girls should write together. What do you think?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and she said, ‘Sure,'" Wayne remembers. "I had known Hannah for about five years, so I brought Hannah in, because she’s really musical: She plays eight or nine different instruments; she’s that girl ...
"The first time we wrote, it was easy, and we kind of all had a connection together," Wayne continues, "and that’s how it all started."
At the time of that initial writing session, each of the three women were pursuing solo music careers; however, they put those dreams aside when they realized that, together, they had something magical.
"There was undeniably something cool with us," admits Cooke. "In the music business, you try not to say no to a lot of things, because so many things come in different forms that turn into this thing or that. This was really an undeniable cool thing happening; I don’t think we had any reservations about it ...
"We were having all these opportunities happen," she adds. "Whether you’re solo or in a band, it was happening, and it’s amazing. I’m happy."
Watch Runaway June Perform "Lipstick" in Nashville
Not that Runaway June don't face some challenges, even with their chemistry. Merging three different talents and abilities into one cohesive unit isn't always easy.
"I think any time that you’re in a group of people that all are just passionate about the project, that sometimes we have different opinions," Mulholland remarks. "But we really trust each other, and I think that probably the most important thing is that, musically and creatively, we trust each other, so if somebody feels really strongly about something, even if you don’t necessarily agree, I think we have a good balance of trust."
A 2017 Taste of Country RISER, Runaway June spent much of 2016 out on the road, performing their own shows and opening for iconic artists such as Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. That busy schedule forced the threesome to learn to be "super considerate" of each other as they logged mile after mile on the road.
"Even traveling with a lot of people, it’s not about you," says Cooke. "You have to consider so many people for it to work and for it to be smooth -- and I think that’s really when it comes to making music or anything -- you have to really consider your partners.
"It keeps your ego in check, so that’s a good thing. You don’t get everything you want all the time," she continues. "It makes for really good art, I think."
Runaway June have also had to learn how to balance their personal lives with their work lives, especially while on the road. With Wayne planning a wedding to fellow artist William Michael Morgan and Cooke planning her own wedding to her longtime boyfriend in the next few years, life is often a juggling act.
When it comes to making music ... you have to really consider your partners. It keeps your ego in check [and] it makes for really good art.[/pullquotes]
"It takes a very special type of person to be the partner of somebody who’s gone so much, because there is this level of independence that both people in the relationship need to have. So as long as you have a partner that sees that, it definitely makes the relationship a lot easier," notes Mulholland. "But it’s challenging, because you miss them, and sometimes you’re gone for a really long time, and you come back and then they’re gone, or whatever."
Adds Cooke, "I think in anyone’s profession, anyone who travels for work, I think it’s hard to balance your at-home relationships. It’s got to be hard for everyone, I think. It presents its challenges, but it’s so important that you have people around you that support what you do and believe in your dream as much as you do, or as much as they can, and see it; that helps so much.
"I cannot imagine not having that support," she continues, "because it takes -- I need a lot of support."
Runaway June will especially need that support this year as they wrap up their album, spend time on the road and release a new single.
"We’ve been so lucky this past year to be on so many amazing shows," says Mulholland. "I think we really hope to just continue doing that, and playing with the artists that we really respect, because that’s just the biggest honor."
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